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Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Big Announcement -- And Our Last Post

In order to give some context to our “Big Announcement,” let me first share a story...

Years ago, Dan and I served a refugee community ministry in the southwest corner of Atlanta. It’s a simple little operation run by a precious couple, named Bennett and Idong Ekandem.

To say that we “served” this ministry is probably a strong word. Our little family of four would occasionally hop in our Audi and make the 35 minute trek to the apartment community in Clarkston, GA which represents one of the largest refugee communities in the world. Once on property, Dan and I would deliver a few bags of groceries, drop off some of our unwanted junk to various residents and leave a little money with Bennett and his wife.

Our entire family loved the Ekandem family and especially Bennett, whom we affectionately dubbed “Big Bennett.” The man was literally bursting at the seams with Christ’s love and his joy was infectious. I’d never met anyone quite like Big Bennett and I thought it was so nice that such a happy, humble, quiet servant had landed this refugee-ministry job that suited him so well.

We’d probably been acquainted with the refugee ministry for 6 or 7 months when I learned a shocking piece of information: Big Bennett hadn’t always been a quiet, humble servant living in a refugee community. He was a trained and highly educated architect whose name is associated with some of the most prominent buildings in downtown Atlanta. He felt the call to serve full-time in refugee ministry, and Big Bennett up and walked away from it all -- from the money, the prestige, the entire lifestyle.

In short, Jesus approached him and said “come, follow me.” And immediately, Bennett did.

What what?? I was flabbergasted by this discovery... he left a promising, lucrative, high-powered career to move to Clarkston, GA and serve a refugee community? Why would someone who was able to “make it” in the corporate world walk away for ministry work? Couldn’t he just volunteer on the weekends or something?

I know how ignorant all of this must make me sound. Please understand that at this time in my life, such a move made absolutely no sense in my economy. I remember turning Bennett’s story over and over in my mind and fearfully considering... what if, one day, God called Dan and me to do something similar? Could we really do it? Or more accurately, would we do it?

I pushed the question out of my mind because it didn’t seem too pressing or probable. Dan and I plugged along with our lives and did all the regular stuff. He worked hard as a software developer and I did the same as a stay-at-home-mom. In 2009 we added a third baby to our brood.

But in early 2010, everything changed. The Lord opened our eyes to a desperate need in the world. He broke our hearts for imprisoned children. Almost instantly, the entire course of our life was altered. Suddenly, what had been sacred and important was not such a big deal. What had been gain, we now counted as loss. We saw everything differently.

When we started SixtyFeet in early 2010, we had no idea that the Lord would grow and expand the ministry so exponentially and so quickly. For the last two years, we’ve juggled the work of SixtyFeet with our “real lives.” Dan and the other board members have essentially balanced two full-time jobs and frequent travel to Africa. The SixtyFeet wives and our amazing volunteers have filled in wherever possible.

But the ministry has now grown to the point that we just can’t effectively run a multi-faceted, international ministry without some full-time staff in the US. Dan and I have prayed and fasted and looked at this situation from every possible angle and with consideration to every possible scenario and it’s clear: we’re the ones who are called to go and do this thing.

We've decided to pull a Big Bennett. We've inquired of the Lord, we've counted the costs and we're prepared to respond in obedience.

Dan is transitioning out of his job by the end of this calendar year in order to run SixtyFeet full-time. For us, this is exciting and awesome -- but also scary. This is uncharted territory and, although we're confident in Christ's provision for us, this is a risk. Dan is leaving his nice, secure job to run a young, international ministry. This has several implications:

1. We are officially a ministry and missionary family – which means we’re officially raising support. We do have financial backing from the SixtyFeet board and from our own church, but in order to fully fund the SixtyFeet operational fund, known as Friends of SixtyFeet, we need additional supporters.

The mission of SixtyFeet is beautifully and fully funded through The Cupcake Kids, monthly film showings and the generous donations we receive throughout the year. Now, our greatest need is for staff to execute on the mission. The SixtyFeet board and our little church plant cannot shoulder the full operational cost of this work -- so we’re seeking individuals, churches, foundations and corporations with a heart for unique, international mission work to partner with us financially.

We need monthly, quarterly, annual and one-time donors to align with us. Please prayerfully consider aligning with us in this way and email Dan at danowens at sixtyfeet dot org for more information. Whenever possible, Dan will be happy to sit with you, face to face, to show you our new film and to discuss the ministry and specific staffing and operational needs.

2. Even more importantly, we need a team of people who will commit to pray for us. When someone once asked Charles Spurgeon the secret of his success, he simply replied "My people pray for me." It’s a jungle out there and as we step out in faith, Dan and I need prayer coverage for our ministry work, for our marriage, for our family and for life in general. If you’re interested in coming alongside us in this capacity, please email me at shellyowens at sixtyfeet dot org.

3. I’m taking a step back from SixtyFeet work and assuming a more behind-the-scenes role. If this seems counter-intuitive to you, I get that. I mean, Dan enters into full-time ministry work and now I’m backing away?

When Dan initially decided to make this move, I first assumed that my role would be the exact opposite. I’m an experienced fundraiser with extensive non-profit experience... I figured I’d be hanging up my homeschool hat and hitting the road with my husband to help build this ministry and raise support. But the Lord has clearly confirmed that my role will be anything but.

My family is on the brink of some major lifestyle changes and at this time, the best way for me to support SixtyFeet is by supporting my husband, loving my children and managing my home. I’m not backing away altogether and I’ll still be very involved in the work of our ministry – but mostly by sticking behind the scenes.

4. In keeping with the point above... the Crazy Blog is going private. Y’all, it’s sad (it really is so, so sad for me because I have loved this space!!) but it’s true. I just cannot continue to dedicate the time and attention required for public blogging.

The next time you visit this page, it will be password protected and access will be restricted to family, friends and those who serve on our financial and prayer support teams. This is necessary, due to the sensitive nature of the work we do and also frankly, because the public blogging world has just worn me out this year. Remember?

If you fall into one of those aforementioned categories and would like to continue to keeping up with Team Owens and follow along with our ministry work, you can register for our private blog at this same web address in about one week.

Thank you so very much to everyone who has followed along with our Crazy journey over the last few years. I was sifting through some old blog posts and pictures last night and I've got to admit, I got a little teary-eyed. For me, this is the end of an era.

If you’ve been reading from the very beginning, you’ve watched some amazing stuff unfold... and to God be all the glory. He's taken us in directions we never could have imagined and our story is really His story. He’s the author and perfecter of our faith and our lives. Dan and I are truly blessed to serve in His courts.

And that's a wrap. We love y'all dearly and we are thankful for you. 

Gratefully in His Service,
Dan & Shelly


Nancy said...

Team Powell will continue to support you in prayer and some humble financial ways! So excited and moved to get to see this journey be all that God intended!

Lari said...

So excited for you! We're embarking on a similar adventure...going where God is calling us. Will be praying for you and your family!

Anonymous said...

((Hugs))~Oh how I love 60 Feet. We are supporters of the ministry, but have definitely felt like "side-lines" supporters for the durations as our family has been in a HUGE transitional period for the past two years; however, we look so forward to diving in a more tangible way in the very near future. :) I love your heart. We will absolutely be lifting your family up in prayer throughout the transition!

Courtney said...

this is exciting!!!! we will be praying for you all!

Colleen said...

Love you. Love your big ol' hearts. I'll see you on the flip side. :)

Anonymous said...

HURRAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am with Nancy, and help in humble financial ways...

Megan said...

Praying for you and your family on this amazing journey!!


Allie said...

So excited for you guys and we can't wait to see where He takes you!

Naomi said...

Yep a little teary too to see you leave the public forum but I hope I shall be keeping up with you privately!! I am so excited for this venture of faith!! We shall certainly be praying for you especially since we know what it is like raising the support and doing something that others think is a little cuckoo!! We get you and know your heart! I think you are wise to make the decisions you have.

Joshua 3:4 says, 'that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.'

love you!!!

Taryn said...

LOVE you guys and Sixty Feet! I had a feeling this was coming :) We definitely will support you in prayer, finances, and whatever else we can too!!!!!

steph said...

I'm going to forward this on to matt and we will be praying for y'all, for sixty feet and for what God might have in His plans for all the unknown you are embarking on! Love y'all! The Swanson's

The Nolls said...

I have really loved reading your blog and watching what the Lord has done in and through your family. I am so excited for you all as you take this big step - may the Lord provide abundantly, and bring much fruit for his glory from your faithfulness!

I loved your little story about Clarkston. Our mission agency does some assessment and training through working in Clarkston, and some of our friends are full time missionaries there. It has a special place in my heart and I love hearing of people like Big Bennet called to love and serve those people.

May the Lord bless and keep each of you Owens! Thank you again for sharing your lives with us!

Tricia said...

Praising the Lord for the work that you are doing. I am excited to see Him grow Sixty Feet. Will definitely be praying for you all!

Susan said...

:( I am not a friend or family. But I have adored your blog and inspiring thoughts.If you feel so inclined to let me in I would love it, but if not I understand and respect your boundaries. You were one of the first blogs I saw out there about saving orphans. I love it and I love your thoughts and I will miss them.

Sarah said...

It has been a privilege to be able to follow along with you so far. I'm excited for the adventure you've been on and continue to follow.

Janelle-A Story of Grace said...

This is a dream come true, a God thing! I'm going to email you about your ministry. I can't believe I found you. What a God-thing.


Erin Holt said...

To God be the glory!!! My heart is filled with love for your family as you take this journey! You have stepped out in faith and obedience and our Father is smiling. Be blessed, friends. Your south Georgia family is praying for you as we continue to pray for the kids in Uganda. We would love to have Dan come show the movie here in Valdosta so your support may grow in our area! Love to your sweet family!

Liz Blalock said...

Shelly, I'm friends with Laura Hill and saw this post on her Facebook page. I can't tell you how much your Home at Last video ministered to me and reading about all the Lord is doing through "your crazy family". I will be praying for you all and would love to give you some momentary support. I can also relate to your comments about being in the public blog world and the ugly criticism from within the church. It made me think of this parable a dear friend of mine shared with me yesterday after talking about the characteristics of weeds. She said one of the most deceptive things a weed does is it begins to look like the very flower that it's seeking to choke and take over. May we as believers be aware of the enemies tactics and on the lookout for the weeds among us. So thankful for all your family is doing for Christ and His Kingdom.

Rachel Goode @ Heirs with Christ said...

Sad to see your blog go private, but so happy for the amazing, God-ordained changes in your life. :) I hope to follow along still privately!

leemeandthegirls said...

So excited for you Shelly! However, I WILL MISS YOUR BLOG terribly! You inspire me in so many ways. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ.

Alison said...

Oh, Shelly! My heart is about to burst with this amazing news!!! I am so excited to see that God how God has called your family! We love ya'll and Sixty Feet! Definitely want to keep following ya'll and the beautiful story God is writing for your family...all for His glory!!!

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Wonderful news! Love the journey the Lord has you on. I've enjoyed and been inspired by blog. I've appreciated your vulnerability and parenting tips. May God richly bless these next steps.

Sophie said...

God bless you guys! I think it's awesome that you are taking this leap of faith and following God's lead you are an amazing family and I am inspired by your obedience and love. I would love to follow your journey. I will keep your family in my prayers.

Bec said...

I've been reading your blog from Australia. I love it! Sad to be losing the window into your life and ministry and the wisdom you have to share but wish you an amazing God-filled journey!

Megan said...

I have never commented on a blog in my life, but I feel I should just let you know that almost a year ago, God used your guest post on The Lettered Cottage to begin a process of rocking my world to its core. So thank you. Thank you for trusting God, for declaring His love, for advocating for those who don't have a voice. Just, thank you. God bless!

Jo's Corner said...

I love reading all about the Journey's He has taken your sweet family on! I would really like to continue learning from you and your Hubby. I hope you will add me as a reader. 60 Feet has been life changing and opened my eyes (even MORE) to the many, many orphans in this world. I will continue to pray for all of you as you take this huge step in Faith. Love in Him ~ Jo
jomoseley57 at gmail dot com

Bethany said...

Praying for you guys! God has spoken so many things to me through your blog. I know I've only commented a few times, I'm a blog lurker! I use it as a sort of devotional, and I've sent links or quoted you so many times to help explain to family and friends the things our family is doing (foster care and adoption). You say things so much better than I can! Praying that God will bless and sustain you! Guess I'll go lurk on the sixty feet blog now.... :)

janelle@astoryofgrace.com said...

I just found you and already miss your blog. lol I'm so blessed to know your ministry and support it. I just sponsored my first child. What a tremendous blessing.


Laura Wilkinson said...

I just started reading your awesome blog a couple of months ago. I'm sorry to hear about all the craziness that has surrounded it, but I love what ya'll are doing! And I will be praying that God be glorified and magnified through it!

J. Smith said...

Inspired by your obedience. And, even though I love reading, it is refreshing to see people step back and invest in the things that matter. That is how I know you guys are legit!! Love it. Hope to follow privately but totally understand if I can't. Love you guys!!

Anna said...


I have loved following along with your lives. A friend sent me a link to your Home at Last video over a year ago, but I did not know who you were. I recognized the airport signs, so I guessed you might be in the South. One day, I was wasting some time and laughing at the Pioneer Woman and linked over to a decorator. Having some conflicting thoughts about lovely decorating and the foothold materialism has on so many in our culture, I found a link to *you*!! I laughed at how I found you and was thrilled to see how purposefully you are living. I've been hooked since. Thanks for your ministry. With hope our paths will one day cross. Anna Barber, Birmingham